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Safety
May 6, 2022

FAQs from K-12 leaders about student safety technology and privacy

GoGuardian Team

It takes a village to keep students safe, especially when it comes to mental health. GoGuardian Beacon can be a powerful part of your district’s village of teachers, student safety professionals, and administrators, because it helps schools support students who may be at risk for suicide and other mental health emergencies. But, understandably, complex student privacy laws and school responsibilities can give rise to questions about implementing Beacon as part of a student safety plan. Here, we discuss the many ways to use Beacon to help keep students safe — while also safeguarding student privacy. 

In the video below, GoGuardian experts Ellen Yan and Teddy Hartman discuss how to find the balance between student safety and student privacy.


If you’d prefer to read, here is a Q&A version of Ellen and Teddy’s interview.

  1. How should schools balance privacy responsibilities with addressing students’ mental health and safety needs?

Ellen: There isn’t one law that uniformly covers all schools’ privacy responsibilities when students may be at risk for suicide. Rather, your district's requirements will vary based upon individual state laws and your specific suicide prevention policy. To help ensure that your school conforms to local regulations, work as a team with your legal advisors, emergency management staff, student services, and counseling professionals to create sound policies about what to do when a student appears to be contemplating suicide. Then provide thorough staff training to make sure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities if they become aware that a student needs help.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a great resource to help you through your school suicide prevention planning process. They have chapters in all 50 states that offer helpful information about suicide-related state laws. Legislation changes often, so be sure to check and make sure any information you find is up to date. AFSP also offers a free Model School Policy that includes actionable steps to support school personnel, sample language for student handbooks, suggestions for involving parents and guardians in suicide prevention, and guidance on how to address in-school suicide attempts.  

Another step towards complying with your student privacy responsibilities is taking a close look at your school’s communication plan and making adjustments, if necessary. Your plan should include communicating transparently with parents/guardians. That includes providing information about GoGuardian Beacon’s deployment and how the platform works. Let them know how you plan to respond to Beacon’s alerts, and what they should expect in the event that there is an alert about their child.

We also suggest speaking with your colleagues from neighboring schools or districts and your state board of education about what they are doing to keep students safe during mental health crises. You can share experiences and best practices in setting up effective school safety programs, as well as implementation of technology like Beacon. 

For more insight on keeping students safe, tap into other resources such as your State Board of Education, the National PTA and the National Institute of Health. They can often provide starting points for discussions about student mental health response plans. Also, this blog post has a list of links to helpful school mental health resources for you to explore. 

  1. How does GoGuardian address student privacy?

Teddy: GoGuardian understands that student privacy is a critical concern for district administrators, especially when it comes to mental health. When you are considering any edtech product, make sure that the company follows both of these best practices: 

1) They have signed the legally-binding Student Privacy Pledge.
GoGuardian has proudly signed the Student Privacy Pledge to uphold industry best practices in student data privacy. Schools control their own student data, and GoGuardian will not sell or monetize the data. 

2) The company is independently certified as FERPA compliant.
GoGuardian is certified by iKeepSafe as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliant. To the extent that GoGuardian tools collect information that is considered an education record, we operate as a “school official” with “legitimate educational interests” to process student data on behalf of the school. In other words, schools contract with GoGuardian under FERPA to help them comply with legislation that requires proper data processing and protections. 

We want our customers to be confident that they retain control of student data. For more details, visit GoGuardian's Trust & Privacy Center.

  1. How does Beacon monitor and alert on devices?

Teddy: Beacon is only active when students are logged into their student account, or if they are using a school-owned device. The platform works by analyzing student activity and only alerting designated school employees when at-risk activity is identified. 

Above and beyond the Student Privacy Pledge and compliance with federal and state privacy laws, we encourage schools to be discerning about who has access to the online activity information that Beacon identifies. Beacon is designed to compliment a district’s existing suicide prevention program. For example, districts can select school-specific users and set custom escalation flows and parent notifications. 

It’s very important to have sound procedures in place so that your staff knows what to do when a student may be at risk for self-harm or harming others. We recommend that you work closely with your policy team to set up GoGuardian Beacon so that it aligns with your district-approved policies. 

  1. Who owns the data Beacon processes?

Teddy: GoGuardian Beacon serves as a tool for educators so they can make sure students are interacting safely with school-owned technology. GoGuardian keeps student data ownership with schools, as shown by our commitment to students, our Privacy Pledge, and our compliance with State and federal laws. Also, our products can be transparent for students, so they can make informed decisions about how they use school accounts and devices. Schools can activate a schoolhouse icon on browsers that alerts students whenever any GoGuardian product is active. 

GoGuardian Beacon is your partner in identifying at-risk behavior. For more information or to schedule a meeting to discuss specific privacy and student safety needs at your school, visit www.goguardian.com/beacon.

Additional Resources:

Teddy Hartman is GoGuardian’s Head of Privacy. He was previously a school teacher, a privacy administrator and an education policy specialist. Ellen Yan is GoGuardian’s general manager of Beacon.

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